Sometimes The Best Way To Move Forward Is To Stop


Article originally published at Happy Startup School

Our goals in life and business are best met indirectly

“In an age of speed, nothing can be more invigorating than going slow.” Pico Iyer

We had just spent a few days with a group of founders in the mountains of Dream Valley.

After 15 years in business and 5 years building a community of entrepreneurs, we’ve learnt the hard way that to get better ideas, create a successful company and lasting impact with your work, you need to think differently.

This means taking yourself out of your everyday routine whenever you can to shake things up, even, make that especially, when you think you can least afford to.

Some get this straight away, others need a little cajoling. We hear the same excuses all the time:

“I’m too busy.”

“I can’t afford it.”

“It’s not for me.”

However time and time again they realise they were wrong (and thank me for pushing them to make the leap).

You see it’s precisely those that are busiest, who most need to give themselves a break.

Stress – studies have shown – is contagious.

But typically we’re terrible at knowing what’s good for us, especially when we’re in the thick of it.

“I had no idea how much I needed Alptitude — a break from constantly trying to figure it all out, and a moment to just play, breathe, and reconnect.” Traci Gushiken

My co-founder Carlos, doing some blue sky thinking…

Taking the scenic route

In his book Obliquity, John Kay argues that if you want to go in one direction, the best route may just involve going in the other.

Paradoxical as it sounds, goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. The most profitable companies tend not to be the most profit-oriented, and the happiest people are not those who make happiness their main aim.

Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people.

Changing your mindset

We’re huge fans of the oblique route at The Happy Startup School:

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Every time we host these gatherings we get amazed by the results. But there is a method to the madness:

  • People arrive feeling alone, but leave feeling connected like never before
  • They arrive weighed down with problems, but leave feeling lighter
  • They come with doubts, but depart brimming full of possibility

You see taking yourself out of the situation and into a completely different environment with a group of likeminded people creates shifts that otherwise could take months or years — or possibly never even happen.

But once you’ve experienced this shift, life will never be the same again.

And, like us, you’ll become a cheerleader for a new way of learning and doing business. As well as re-discovering nature and its healing power.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Over to you

So if you’re looking to solve a particular business challenge try something different:

  • Step away from the problem
  • Switch on your out-of-office reply
  • Soak up nature at its finest
  • Share life-affirming experiences with new friends
  • Fill your boots with inspiration and conversation
  • Share your hopes, fears and challenges with others
  • Get a new perspective
  • Get clear
  • Breathe

A birds-eye view

One founder, Hayli from Berlin, sent us this note after returning home:

“As a couple of bootstrapping creatives, we got pretty good at making things work on the proverbial shoestring. People don’t talk much about it, but many novice entrepreneurs like us must find themselves in this precarious situation. Floating in a sea of decisions that will hopefully bring them ashore, but every choice they make must count, every investment has to take them closer to land.

However, at some point theoretical knowledge is not enough, we needed guidance that came from lived experience and deeper knowledge.

We didn’t know it going in, but it was exactly the lifeline we were looking for — social capital from the diverse expertise of the group, open-ended and collaborative explorations whilst walking outdoors and most precious of all… tangible and authentic mentorship that helped us not only gain fresh perspective on critical issues, but arrive at actionable solutions.”

None of this would have happened in such a short timeframe if it wasn’t for the people, the setting and the space we created. One where ideas are free to emerge and everyone gets exactly what they needed.

So if you are finding that you’re trying the same things and getting the same results, maybe it’s time you walked away from the problem and took the oblique route.

Trust me, you’ll thank me for it.

If you’re an entrepreneur, founder or budding changemaker and would like to be part of the unfolding story that is Alptitude, apply here for our next event. Applications close at the end of March.